How to avoid repetitive strain injuries at your desk
So far in our How to Work Well series we have looked at your commute, your desk and basic food swaps that will dramatically improve your health during your workday.
The office is somewhere that a lot of us spend so much of our time. In today's column, I want to show you simple stretches and techniques that you can use to alleviate the common office ailments that affect so many people.
I am no chartered physiotherapist - any injury you may have should always be properly assessed by a CP. These simple tips may help you to feel better and that little bit stronger so that you hopefully won't get to the stage of having to go to the physio!
So what are the common ailments?
When I do corporate lectures all around Ireland, this is probably the most common question I get with regards to office issues. By spending so much time sitting at a desk, in a compromised position, the back gets put under so much strain in the work day. So what can you do to change that?
Improve your flexibility: Backs and flexibility are nearly always linked. If the hamstrings at the back of the legs are tight then generally there will be some element of back pain associated with it.
Strengthen your core: Weak core muscles are also invariably linked with back pain. Exercises such as the plank and sit up variations will help, but sitting at your desk, pulling your belly button in towards your spine and holding that position will also help too, as a by-product it will also help you to straighten your posture too.
Keep both feet flat on the floor: By doing this you place pressure on your back - it forces you to lean forward and put pressure on the back. If you raise one leg two or three inches and place your foot on a book around that height, you will notice a big reduction in the amount of pressure placed on your back. Simply alternate your feet during the day. n Try a standing desk or a swiss ball instead of a chair: Both of these simple swaps will force your body to work a lot harder during the day, rather than letting a chair do all the work. n Aim to walk more during the day: Backs need movement! So if you find that you are stiffening up during the day then aim to get up and walk around at regular intervals.
Obviously your wrists and forearms will take a lot of work during the day and can often get sore. Here are a few easy tips that should help to solve that.
Support your wrists: Firstly look at your wrist position in relation to your laptop or keyboard. Ideally it should be level with the keys - you can get simple keyboard supports to ensure this is the case.
Stretch regularly: Interlock your fingers with your palms facing you. Now rotate your hands and push your hands away from the body by locking out the arms. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat five or six times.
Build strength: Taking a soft ball like a tennis ball and squeezing it repeatedly for 60 seconds can be a great way to build the strength in your wrists and arms too.
Neck and shoulder pain is all too common in the office and is something that can really become a problem over time.
It can often be as a result of bad posture that it kicks in in the first place. Weak muscles in your core and the upper body reduce your body's ability to hold itself upright, placing pressure on the shoulders and back. To improve this, try some of the postural recommendations I mentioned above.
Muscle up: Do some resistance work to strengthen up your upper back muscles.
Unhunch your shoulders: Tense your shoulders by lifting them up towards your neck, hold for 10 seconds and then release and relax the arms n Refresh your eyes: Consider the eyeline when you look at your laptop. Are you looking down or straight ahead? By looking down, you're placing a huge amount of stress on your neck and shoulders
Roll on: Remind yourself every hour to do some simple neck rolls for 60 seconds on each side.